How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym
Brad Stulberg

During my fastest 5k ever (16:39), I’ll never forget how ragged my breathing was. How much my legs hurt. But something shifted when I surprised myself on my first mile time (low 5:00s) — I’d never run this fast. Then I wondered, “could I keep this up?” Pain turned to curiosity. Curiosity to an experiment, and I began monitoring my body as if it were someone else’s.

Breathing was steady but capped. Muscles weak but not giving out. It was an odd mix of feeling strong yet about to crumble.

This is what I call ‘running at capacity’ — it’s rare, and it hurts. It hurts a lot. And it doesn’t matter what your capacity is (Olympian or 10:00m miler) — you feel that pain exactly the same.

And it’s the same pain you feel when you’re pushing yourself in any arena — including work and personal life. You instinctively push back, avoiding pain, avoiding fear — avoiding growth.

I love running for this reason — it’s a mirror of life, and reminds me to keep pushing.